Is social media negatively affecting your mental Health?

Social media, for many it can be used and experienced as a great way to connect with others and share our lives. It’s also a great place for businesses to market their services, ideas to be shared and debates and discussions to take place. For us at Pure Insights it’s a great place for us to share blogs like this one and to share information to support wellbeing and the development and maintenance of happiness. I know for me personally, while I was living in Australia it was vital for me to feel able to stay connected with my family and friends in the UK and to share my experiences with them from the other side of the world.

However, social media can also have a much darker side, and not just for children and teenagers, which is widely reported on, but also for adults, people like you and me. The reasons behind this are not straight forward and have allot of factors involved, but I think what we need to ask ourselves is, is the endless scrolling doing us any good? When I found myself checking Instagram and Facebook the second I woke up in the morning and in the moments before I went to sleep at night (does this sound familiar?), I decided I needed to make a change.

So, what negative effects can these sites desire for sharing and connection be having on us?

Forbes.com put together a list, based on scientific studies, of three reasons as to why social media can negatively impact and even damage our mental wellbeing.

Firstly, it’s addictive

A review study from Nottingham Trent University concluded that “it may be plausible to speak specifically of ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’…because addiction criteria, such as neglect of personal life, mental preoccupation, escapism, mood modifying experiences, tolerance and concealing the addictive behaviour, appear to be present in some people who use [social networks] excessively.” Furthermore, it has been shown that withdrawal symptoms like anxiety can arise in adults when they have social media removed for some time.

I know all too well that compulsive feeling to check my phone apps even though I had looked 10 minutes ago and there couldn’t possibly be anything that couldn’t wait a few hours more before being checked or responded to.

Secondly, it triggers more sadness than happiness and less wellbeing

In fact, another study found that social media use is linked to greater feelings of social isolation. The team looked at how much people used 11 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and Reddit, and correlated this with their “perceived social isolation.” Not surprisingly, it turned out that the more time people spent on these sites, the more socially isolated they perceived themselves to be. And perceived social isolation is one of the worst things for us, mentally and physically.

Thirdly, it creates jealousy

It’s no secret that the comparison factor in social media leads to jealousy—most people will admit that seeing other people’s tropical vacations and perfectly behaved kids is envy-inducing.

According to a recent study by UK disability charity Scope, of 1500 Facebook and Twitter users surveyed, 62 percent reported feeling inadequate and 60 percent reported feelings of jealousy from comparing themselves to other users.

This is one that I can really resonate with. There have been a few times in my life when things haven’t been really going to plan or I have felt lower than normal and looking through social media only increased my self-doubt and further lowered my satisfaction with my current situation. Everyone else seemed to be living an exciting, happy and full life, or so their social media pages would have you believe.

It also struck me at times I would have made other people feel this way. What if one of the times I posted pictures of a tropical holiday or me being surrounded by friends did I feed into someone’s else’s feelings of inadequacy or loneliness.

Certainly, the answer is not to completely ban social media from our lives as we would miss out on all the benefits that come mixed in with the negative. I love being able to share ideas through social media and the last 10 years of my life are recorded on Facebook, and there is something quite special in that.
But It appears it’s important that we use the sites with caution and moderation. When we are feeling down or lonely turn directly to our friends or more tangible things to support use. Remember that social media isn’t a representation of reality and comparing our reality to others social media profiles will only ever leave us feeling dissatisfied. We need to get busy living our lives in the moment rather than through the screen.

What are your thoughts on social media? We would love to hear from you!

 

 

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Mindfulness in the Everyday

‘Mindfulness’ is a word we all hear allot these days and at times its somewhat overuse can lead people to dismiss the practice as a ‘fad’, something they are constantly told to do but just don’t have time for.

The definition of mindfulness is:

‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations’

Put simply it’s keeping our focus on the present moment, really living that moment, while being aware of our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations but not being kept captive by them. Not being racked with sadness about past mistakes or worry about the future, just being able to be in the moment, experiencing the present. Something that can have highly positive impacts of our mental wellbeing, overall health and enjoyment of life.

There are several great mindfulness exercises and techniques out there but making time for a formal exercise can feel like having to add another task to your already overstretched daily to do list, meaning for many people mindfulness goes to the bottom of the pile. That’s why thinking of ways of integrating mindfulness informally into our everyday routine can be the most realistic but also most beneficial practice for many people.

It’s a win-win, we don’t have to add another task to our to do list but we still get to receive the benefits of mindfulness.

Russ Harris, a champion of Acceptance and Commitment therapy, put together the below informal ways of integrating mindfulness into the everyday.

 

1. Mindfulness in Your Morning Routine
Pick an activity that constitutes part of your daily morning routine, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, making the bed, or taking a shower. When you do it, totally focus your attention on what you’re doing: the body movements, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, the sound, and so on. Notice what’s happening with an attitude of openness and curiosity.
For example, when you’re in the shower, notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, as it hits your body, and as it gurgles down the drain. Notice the temperature of the water, and the feel of it in your hair, and on your shoulders, and running down your legs. Notice the smell of the soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin. Notice the sight of the water droplets on the walls or shower curtain, the water dripping down your body and the steam rising upward. Notice the movements of your arms as you wash or scrub or shampoo.
When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, and let them come and go like passing cars. Again and again, you’ll get caught up in your thoughts. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what the thought was that distracted you, and bring your attention back to the shower.
2. Mindfulness of Domestic Chores
Pick an activity such as ironing clothes, washing dishes, vacuuming floors—something mundane that you have to do to make your life work—and do it mindfully. For example, when ironing clothes, notice the colour and shape of the clothing, and the pattern made by the creases, and the new pattern as the creases disappear. Notice the hiss of the steam, the creak of the ironing board, the faint sound of the iron moving over the material. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron, and the movement of your arm and your shoulder.
If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you’re doing. Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to your current activity.
3. Mindfulness of Pleasant Activities
Pick an activity you enjoy such as cuddling with a loved one, eating lunch, stroking the cat, playing with the dog, walking in the park, listening to music, having a soothing hot bath, and so on. Do this activity mindfully: engage in it fully, using all five of your senses, and savour every moment. If and when your attention wanders, as soon as you realize it, note what distracted you, and re-engage in whatever you’re doing.

Enjoy bringing a bit more mindfulness into your everyday!

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World Mental Health Day

Today is Mental Health Day. Every year, on October 10, we shed awareness and health education toward mental health issues worldwide.   In Australia, Mental Health Australia leads the campaign which focuses on how we all have a part to play in creating a mentally healthy community.

The “Do you see what I see?” initiative, is a campaign that challenges perceptions about mental illness in Australia, and encourages everyone to look at mental health in a more informed and positive way. This is essential in reducing the stigma in order to allow more people to seek the help they deserve without feeling any shame towards mental health issues.
In Australia, the stigma surrounding mental illness is an issue as it prevents people from talking about their challenges and worse, demotivates them from seeking the help and support that they so much deserve.

Misconceptions about mental health and a lack of education surrounding the topic can be so damaging to those suffering from mental illness as it makes people feel ashamed or that they are broken or faulty and this can make them feel alienated. They can often be referred to as being “weak”, “hopeless” or “scary” and messages both subliminal or conscious can appear anywhere from the workplace, school or in the media making it worse for those with a mental illness to come forward and talk about it.

One in five Australians are affected by a mental illness. It is imperative that we understand that most people living with a mental illness can live an independent and contributing life with the right treatment and support. We need to educate ourselves further and create a greater awareness that many people within our network such as family members, work colleagues or friend’s circles may suffer from a mental illness and it’s time to look at is with a positive light and offer support and acceptance. In this light, we will then be able to help rather than alienate.

For more information on Mental Health Day please visit https://1010.org.au/ where you can go and make a promise today to make a difference regarding mental illness and shifting the stigma to assist those in need.

 

 

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Working with Resistant Clients (In Employment Service Industry)

When working in the employment services sector, clients can be resistant to our information, advice, guidance and coaching. Sometimes the client stops progressing, sometimes they start going backwards in their development and this can be a very stressful situation. Fortunately, there are various effective ways of navigating these “stuck” scenarios.

Here are some indications that resistance may have gotten the better of you:

  • You feel like you are fighting and arguing with your clients. Many times you may have felt as if you were trying to convince your clients of something and not making headway.
  • Your clients are “Yes, but-ing …” your every suggestion.
  • You are sitting on the edge of your chair, leaning toward your client with your neck stretched out while the client sits there relaxed! Our posture can be very revealing with regards to our comfort with resistance.
  • You are working harder than your clients are. If after finishing the conversation, you have more work to do than your clients, then you should take a close look at what you are doing!
  • You are worrying more and carrying more tension about clients’ problems than clients are and sometimes it feels like you take your clients’ problems home with you.
  • You are feeling compelled to say “we” as you discuss client problems.
  • You dread the meeting before it begins and/or after it ends.
  • You feel stressed and drained in an unhealthy manner after the meeting.
  • You are feeling burned out with your work.

When you find yourself frustrated with a client’s lack of progress, read through this list and assess whether any of these ideas may be legitimate conceptualisations of underlying factors regarding lack of movement.

  • The client does not want to be there – is there another way to engage with the client instead?
  • The client is adjusting to the new situation, of actually talking to someone about problems, or of being in an open space discussing about their problems (ie., concern of privacy, sensitivity of their issues)
  • The client is reacting to the openness of the worker as you try to build rapport. Such openness may be interpreted by the client as very strange behaviour.
  • The client could be experiencing a high level of stress or in a distressed situation that they cannot express themselves (ie., domestic violence, undiagnosed mental illness, etc.)
  • There is an underlying fear associated with making new changes and adapting to new situations (ie., interviews, meeting employers, etc.)
  • There are negative feelings associated with shame due to the client’s perception or inability to resolve issues, or because of the social implications surrounding the issues (ie., finding and keeping employment)
  • A sign of social fear that emerges as a result of poor social skills.
  • A sign of passive-aggressive behaviour. The client may be angry with the worker or some other adult or authority figure such as Centrelink that the worker represents. This anger is expressed as resistance.
  • Resistance can be a personality style. Some people enjoy the battle of resisting. In such clients, the stimulation that results from arguing and controversy may reinforce resistant behaviour. They often switch positions if they find others agreeing with them in order to keep the stimulation going.
  • The client might have a coping strategy of avoiding personal responsibility and of gaining respect and sympathy from others. Hence, the client can be resistant in maintaining the ongoing relationship with support services.
  • Resistance may be a healthy response to a negative conversation. (ie. workers who lack empathy, dominate discussions, lecture to clients, move too quickly, or offer advice from a know-it-all stance will likely arouse resistance in clients).

Ultimately, all working relationships come down to the successful management of resistance, together with efficient communication and interpersonal skills. As a support worker, the way we approach clients should come from the perspective of being aware of some of the reasons for resistance and letting change occur as a natural result of the client exploring some new perspectives in his or her own world. 

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Stress Less

Stress is the first thing that puts our mind our of order. With a moderate level of stress, our brain can still function in a productive and innovative way. However, when stress creeps up and stays for a prolonged period of time, our mind and body start to become pear-shaped. Have a look at the following list and see if any applies to you or those around you:

  • excessive worry
  • negative thoughts
  • increased heart rate
  • avoiding situations
  • feeling like you cannot cope
  • difficulty concentrating
  • being irritable or depressed
  • losing motivation
  • feeling fatigued and hopeless
  • getting sick more often due to a poor immune system.

The below Stress Less Tips will help you to break it down during the day. And remember, the more you practice, the more you will be good at managing your stress level.

 

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How to deal with Grief and Loss

Grief and loss are an inevitable part of life and something all of us will inevitably experience at some point in time.
Most people grieve when they lose something or someone important to them. Everyone grieves in different ways and most of the time, the way we grieve will be very much dependent on things such as upbringing, beliefs, age, religious background, relationships and physical and mental health.

There are many different types of grief, but we will explore 5 of them below:
• Abbreviated Grief: this occurs when the grief is minor and there is no strong attachment to the grief such as moving from a small apartment to a big house. You might miss your neighbours but you are excited for the new neighbours you will meet in your new street. This can also occur when the move happens quickly so there is no time to think about being sad.
• Anticipated Grief: this situation occurs when you know a move is coming and you start to become anxious about the goodbyes. This often happens to teens who are moving interstate or changing schools. Stress can creep in as its getting closer to the deadline and often, some may try to shut off their emotions to deal with the stress of it.
• Ambiguous Grief: This happens when it’s hard to pin down exactly what is bothering us. In this case, it’s hard to define or pin down why we feel grief. This could happen in times where your favourite store has closed or a park you used to play in as a child is being demolished. Ambiguity makes it hard to fully grieve the loss as it’s something so insignificant. But the loss is real and if we don’t face it and work through it, the effects can get worse.
• Delayed Grief: This often happens when delaying the grief of a sad situation is the best option in cases where a loved one has died, but it’s exam time so facing the grief and mourning would be worse right now so we delay it for next week. When loss is delayed, it can hit us like a tonne of bricks all at once at a later stage or when something so small and insignificant happens, making us want to cry at the most inappropriate times.
• Exaggerated Grief: This occurs when there is a snowballing effect of losses, or losses that happen all at once, such as your dog died, you lost your job and you get sick all in a short time. Then there comes a time when you feel the overwhelming feeling of everything crashing down on you, you may even feel depressed, or having a hard time to focus on anything or stay positive. At this stage, life can seem very unfair.

There are many emotions and feelings that we experience when we mourn or grieve. There are also 5 stages that are a natural part of the grieving process as discussed below:

  1. Denial and isolation: The normal reaction is the “this isn’t really happening to me” thought. It is a very normal reaction in trying to rationalise overwhelming feelings. The denial is a defence mechanism that tries to block us from feeling intense pain. It is a temporary response that assists in carrying us through the first wave of discomfort.
  2. Anger: Eventually denial and isolation start to wear off and the reality of the painful situation starts to re appear. Because we are still not ready to deal with the pain, we redirect it and express it as anger. We express the anger out to whoever is near us. It is a time where we feel guilty for being angry which makes us feel angrier. This can be hard for our loved ones around us, as they feel the anger is directed to them and can feel helpless.
  3. Bargaining: We next start to feel helpless and vulnerable. At this stage, it is normal to want to regain control so we start to think how we could’ve done things different. We ask ourselves questions such as “should I have done something different?” “Did I do everything that I possibly could’ve?” etc. Some people try to make a deal with God or a higher power to try to change the circumstances in order to protect us from the painful reality.
  4. Depression: Sadness, regret, worry, a feeling of emptiness. This stage feels like it will last forever. This is not a sign of mental illness but an appropriate response to a loss. Depression is a necessary step to get through the grieving process.
  5. Acceptance: This does not mean that we must be ok with the loss, it just means that we are accepting the reality of our situation. We must try to live with the new reality and live in a world where things are different. It is about surrendering to the reality of the situation and accepting that this is our life now.

 

We are all unique and therefore process things differently.  We can pass these 5 stages in the order as stated above, or in a different order.  The time span for each grieving stage will be different for each individual. Grief and mourning is a very unique experience for each individual and no two people are the same.  Some of us are verbal processors where we need to talk it through until the subject is dealt with in our minds. Others like to write their thoughts and emotions down in journals whilst others like to express their emotions through art or any other type of creative form such as music, sculpting, writing a book etc.

Processing grief should not be done in isolation. There is nothing shameful about sharing our hurt or mourning with loved ones. We need each other’s love, affection and care to help us heal and it’s an important step for moving forward.

If you feel that you cannot shift the grief and loss you are experiencing, you may need the guidance of a professional counsellor or psychologist. Please don’t hesitate to contact one of our team at Pure Insights. We can be contacted on info@pureinsights.com.au or 1300 796 640.

 

 

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Quick tips on finding a job and how to nail the interview questions!

For most of us, finding a new job can often be a very challenging and stressful experience. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are steps we can take to make the job search experience less complicated and a little easier on ourselves. Below we will discuss some practical steps we can take to make the journey more comfortable.

Job search strategies and skills can be categorized into three parts:
• Practical steps that you can take to improve your chances of getting a job
• Tools and tricks that a job seeker can use to increase interview chances
• Positive psychological attitudes and outlooks that can help to reinforce the process and keep it going

Traditional job search skills
The foundation of a successful job search begins with traditional skills. They are the skills that existed before the dawn of the Internet, instant communication, and online profiles. They consist of scanning newspapers, using the phone, walking into establishments and generally having a strong sense of purpose to find employment. You may be wondering why it’s important that you practice these skills in the year 2017. This is because they still work, and they leave a strong impression on employers.

Here is how you can start your job search:

Scanning Newspapers
Scanning newspaper classified job ads for employment is still a key method for finding a job. Not all employers are web savvy, nor do they need to be. Many are older and more traditional — therefore, the classifieds job section in your local newspaper is still worth looking through.
What should be your strategy when looking through newspaper job ads?

  • Get a pen, and circle jobs that look relevant to you
  • Choose jobs that are below your pay grade. Do not be too fussy — throw out a broad net, just in case you run into bad luck.
  • Choose jobs that are above your pay grade. You may surprise yourself and end up in a better position than you could have imagined.
  • If there is a phone number, give them a call directly. Even if there’s also an email attached.
  • Send a resume and cover letter via the email address given.

 

Telephone Cold Calling
Nobody really likes it, but it can create too many opportunities to pass up. These are the benefits of cold calling:

  • You can clarify the application process, if it is unclear
  • You may be first in line if the company has just decided to hire new employees
  • You’ll leave a strong impression on the hiring manager, who is likely to be surprised by a confident cold call
  • You can cold call any company you want — especially the ones that could give you your dream jo
  • Be sure to speak into the phone with confidence. If you sound meek, you may leave a negative impression!

 

Walking
Walking into an establishment to ask about employment is even more nerve wracking than cold calling, but the potential is even greater. Take these steps to ensure a successful visit.

  • Dress up to make a smart impression
  • Bring copies of your resume and cover letter
  • Do your research, and ask to speak to the hiring manager by their specific name
    Make sure you’ve done your research on the company before walking in. There is a possibility that you will get interviewed on the spot, if you’re qualified and lucky enough. You don’t want to stutter and look foolish, having walked into an establishment without knowing its purpose and cause for existence!

 

Pull Your Network
Did you know that the number one trait of successful people is that they ask other people for help? Ask your friends, friends of friends, and family if they are aware of any employment opportunities. With luck, that person will recommend you directly to the hiring manager, which will almost certainly put you on a short list for an interview, given that you are qualified enough.
If you don’t have many friends, family, or connections, this may be harder. It’s never too late to start making new friends.

Modern job search skills
Modern job search skills are quickly becoming an absolute necessity to successfully apply for jobs. By “modern” we are talking about the Internet and its various jobs search tools and aides.
However, the rapid evolution of the Internet means that you’ll need to constantly improve your skills in order to increase your chances of getting a job.
Here are the major tools you’ll need to succeed in the current era:

Job Search Engines
Although utilizing your personal network is best, sometimes it may need to be supplemented. Job search engines are great because many of them now aggregate job postings from other websites, providing a huge collection of postings from around the web.
Australia’s common job search engines include;
• Seek
• Career one
• Jora
• Indeed
• Australian Job Search
• Gumtree
When used correctly, search engines are a great boost to any job hunt. There are hundreds of candidates looking for jobs right now, and employers don’t have to compromise. They will persevere until the right candidate comes along who ticks all the right boxes.

How to prepare for tough interview questions

Below is a list of tips you can utilise to prepare yourself before any interview:
Tell me about yourself
This is your elevator pitch, your opportunity to succinctly reference your academic qualifications and how you gained your skills/experience related to the role you are applying for.
What do you know about this company?
Make sure you’ve done your research and looked at their website and/or asked people who work there about the company, what it stands for, the culture and why they like working there
Tell me about any recent developments that have occurred in the marketplace that may affect our business
Look at industry news / trends to understand the industry landscape
How would you add value to our company?
Think about the role you are applying for and match your skills, experience and qualifications to show you have what they want. Give me an example of when you had to solve a problem at work, how did you do it and what was the outcome?
You’ll have lots of these. Think of relevant problems that relate to the position you are applying for so you can show how you’ve overcome or handled the situation.
What is your biggest achievement in life?
I’m sure you’ve had many of these too. Pick out sporting, academic, voluntary, charitable or travel related example.
Tell me 3 main weaknesses you have
Everyone hates this question and it could be asked in a different way to elicit your weaknesses. Always turn your weakness into a positive. For example: Public speaking is a weakness, however I have joined Toast Masters, a Debating team or speak at a Networking group which has improved my confidence.
Why should we hire you?
Avoid the obvious answer – because I’m the best person for the job. Reiterate the skills, experience and/or academic qualifications you have and how you will add value to the company. Include your interest in the industry and based on your research you share the same work ethic and believe in the product/service

Looking for a job can be a stressful time for many people. Being proactive can improve the situation. Plan ahead, talk to people, cold call and join networking groups. You will be surprised at how many doors open when you are committed to an outcome. Happy job searching!

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R U OK?

R U OK? Day is held annually on the second Thursday in September. The aim of the day is to raise awareness in reminding people to ask family, friends and work colleagues the question “R U OK?” to help those who may be struggling with life. This small initiative can make a difference to someone who may be stressed or overwhelmed.

R U OK? Was founded by Australian Gavin Larken and Janina Nearn in 2009, after Gavin experienced his Father died by suicide in 1995. R U OK? works closely with experts in suicide prevention and mental illness. The tagline was brought about from research that proves that checking in with someone can really make a difference to their mental state. “Getting connected and staying connected is the best thing anyone can do for themselves and for those who may be at risk.” Gavin states.

Supporting one another is something we can all do. All you need to do is invest some time in the people around you. The R U OK? Website has many resources that can assist everyone in how to have a conversation with your family, friends and work colleagues.

If you get a gut feeling that someone you care about is behaving out of the ordinary, perhaps they are agitated, withdrawn, or just not themselves, trust your instinct and act on it. It’s as simple as asking them if they are ok. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and how to ask. The R U OK? Website has some excellent tips on how to ask the question:

1. Ask R U OK? Before you approach the person, make sure that you are in a relaxed and friendly mood, and show concern in your approach. It is helpful to ask questions such as “What’s been happening for you?” or “How are you going?”. It is also recommended that you mention specific things such as what makes you concerned about them. For example, “you seem withdrawn lately, how are you going?”
Push Back: If you get a push back from the person, or they do not wish to talk, don’t criticize them. Tell them you are still concerned and that you care about them. You could say “Please call me if you ever want to chat” or “is there someone else you would rather talk to?”. Avoid confrontation with the person as that could make the situation more stressful.
2. Listen without Judgement: Do not interrupt the person when they are talking and do take what they are saying seriously. Acknowledge that things seem tough for them and do not judge their experience. Ask them questions so that they are encouraged to share how they feel. You could ask questions such as “How are you feeling about that situation?” or “How long have you felt this way?”. Show them that you have listened by paraphrasing what they have said and ask them if this correct.
3. Encourage Action: You could ask things to prompt them in how to find a solution. Questions such as
a. “What have you done in the past to manage a similar situation?”
b. “How would you like me to support you?”
c. “What’s something you could do right now that you would love, and is enjoyable and relaxing for you?”
d. “When I was going through a difficult time, I tried this…. you might find it useful too?”
If they have been feeling really down for a while, it is a good idea to encourage them to see a professional. Tell them you could assist them in helping the right person. Be positive when discussing the role of professionals in getting through tough times.
4. Check in: After your conversation, it is a good idea to check in with the person. You could put a reminder in your diary to call them. Depending on the severity of the situation, follow up accordingly. Ask them if they’ve found a better way to manage the situation. If they haven’t done anything, don’t judge them, they may just need someone to listen to them for the moment. Stay in touch and be there for them. Genuine care and concern make a huge difference.

In a 12-month period, it is estimated that 65, 000 Australians make a suicide attempt with an estimated 2320 people committing suicide each year. This is why the R U OK? Initiative is such an important one.

Even if you ask the question and the person is ok, it is of value that they know you care enough to ask them how they are going.
As we embark on another year of R U OK? Day, let’s all do our part to connect with the people around us to be able to better support anyone struggling with life. Sometimes conversations can be too big for friends and family to take on alone. If you need professional assistance, please refer to the below help lines:

Lifeline – 131114
Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – 1800551800
Grief Line – 1200 845 745
Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636

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How Meditation can work for you

The modern world is an online world and having breaks away from technology actually helps our brains, eyes and our souls!
When was the last time you went for a walk in nature?… (and decided not to take a picture and post it on Facebook and Instagram).
Meditation is even more important nowadays as it has been since the time of Buddha. Slowing down, focusing on breathing and being genuinely grateful for even 5 minutes a day has been proven to be beneficial.

Meditation offers numerous health benefits – both physical and spiritual. Meditation has immediate benefits and can be done anywhere, anytime and at any place.
Meditation is not as complicated as many believe it to be. It can be as simple as paying attention to your breathing whilst sitting on the train, car, or sitting at a coffee shop or at your desk at work. It doesn’t need to be a long drawn out process either, it can be just one or two minutes if you are busy. You just need to make it fit into your life.

First and foremost, meditation is known to reduce stress and help you relax. By reducing stress you can both feel better physically and look more relaxed. In addition, regular meditation can;
• Relieve stress
• Help you to relax
• mindfulness helps you to change habits, live slowly, be present in everything that you do and savour the moment you are in
• have multiple mental benefits such as; improved focus, memory control, self-control, academic performance and increased happiness
• Increase health benefits such as improved metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure and more

Spiritually, regular meditation increases your self-awareness and your emotional well- being making it easier to deal with life’s challenges. Meditation can also teach you patience and can assist you with focusing your attention for longer periods of time.
Meditation has immediate benefits and can be done anywhere, anytime and at any place.

How to do it daily
The biggest challenge will be to form a daily habit. The method below from Zen habits is a simple one so that it is easier to commit to it

1. Commit to just 2 minutes a day: starting simply with a small amount of time will make it easier to commit to this practice every day.
2. Pick a time and trigger: a general time like morning or before bed is a good start. The trigger can be something you do regularly, like after you brush your teeth at night before hopping into bed.
3. Find a quiet spot: It doesn’t matter where , all that is important is that it’s quiet and you are comfortable in that spot away from noise and distractions. Switch your phone to silent, and close the door to eliminate all distractions.
4. Sit comfortably: sit on a pillow or the floor, you can lean on a wall if that is easier. You can sit on a couch or a chair if that is more comfortable.
5. Start with 2 minutes on a timer: This is really important. We need to start with small time frames as we are building a habit. You can expand your time when you see that you are able to get through the 2 minutes easily. Increase your time by small increments every week, till you can get this time up to 20 minutes a time.
6. Focus on your breathing: Breathe in through your nose, then throat, then into your lungs and belly. Sit straight, keep your eyes open but look at the ground and with a soft focus. You can close your eyes if you prefer. If your mind starts to wonder, bring it back gently to your breathing. Repeat this process for a few minutes. It will be difficult at the beginning, but with time, you will better.

This is a very simple practice, that starts off at just 2 minutes a day. Once you have practiced a little bit and you are comfortable, you can use this to assist you when feeling stressed, are overwhelmed with thoughts, when you eat, wash you dishes etc.

Research has shown that regular meditation greatly reduces stress which has a very positive outcome on our skin. There has been photographic proof that meditation can improve your looks. As soon as stress is reduced our skin will look better since chronic stress leads to inflammation in the body.

When we reduce stress in our lives, sleep well, and feel good physically our life will feel less stressful. One way to help our bodies, our health, and our skin to look its best is to meditate!

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Compassion with Equinimity

This Saturday I made a little investment in myself and brought a ticket to attend an all-day workshop in London on Mindful Self Compassion ran by my psychology hero Dr Kristin Neff. I’ve previously written about some of her ideas around the life changing power of self-compassion and seeing her talk in person was even more inspiring that I could have hoped.

One topic she touched on during the workshop that particularly resonated with me was the importance of using compassion with equanimity, i.e. sending some of the compassion back our way when we are offering compassion to others who are suffering to help us remain balanced, cared for and present. Having worked as a counsellor with complex clients for a few years now I have read many articles of self-care, been supported by some amazing supervisors and managers, developed a strong barrier between my work day and home life and invested time in looking after myself after an intense day of client work.

While these strategies are all vital ingredients of maintaining my wellbeing while working in a job where I am supporting and listening to the stories of some of the most vulnerable and distressed members of our society they all have one drawback, they are only available to me after the session has finished and not there in the moment when I may need them most. Being able to work as counsellor is a privilege and one of the most rewarding parts of my life but sometimes the process of being there for others can be very draining for the compassion giver, we may take on too much personal responsibility for changing the others situation, become exhausted and frustrated with the others reluctance to change or develop insight into their situations, or must listen to distressing stories of abuse or trauma. This doesn’t just apply to people working in a caring profession as we will all have moments in our lives when we are supporting friends or family members through difficult situations.

By practicing the below compassion with equanimity exercise Kristin Neff took the workshop attendees through, we can all learn some short strategies we can take into our next client session or conversation with a suffering loved one.

This exercise is intended for use in actual caregiving situations. It is a way of being compassionate with ourselves while maintaining connection to others. It combines the Giving and Receiving Compassion meditation with phrases that cultivate equanimity.

Equanimity is balanced awareness in the midst of pleasant or unpleasant emotions.  Below I will describe the process.

  • Firstly, find a comfortable position and take a few deep breaths to settle into your body and into the present moment. You might like to put your hand over your heart, or wherever it is comforting and soothing, as a reminder to bring affectionate awareness to your experience and to yourself.
  • Next bring to mind someone you are caring for who is exhausting you or frustrating you—someone whom you care about who is suffering.
  • Visualize the person and the caregiving situation clearly in your mind, and feel the struggle in your own body.
  • Now repeat these words, letting them gently roll through your mind:

Everyone is on his or her own life journey.
I am not the cause of this person’s suffering,
nor is it entirely within my power to make it go away,
even though I wish I could
There are times when this relationship is difficult to bear,
yet I may still try to help if I can.

Be aware of the stress you are carrying in your body, inhaling fully and deeply, drawing compassion inside your body and filling every cell of your body with compassion. Letting yourself be soothed by inhaling deeply, and by giving yourself the compassion you need.

As you exhale, sending out compassion to the person who is associated with your discomfort, or to others in general. Continue breathing compassion in and out, allowing your body to gradually find a natural, breathing rhythm—letting your body breathe itself.  “One for me, one for you.” “In for me, out for you.”  Occasionally scanning your inner landscape for any distress and responding by inhaling compassion for yourself and exhaling compassion for others.  Noticing how your body is caressed from the inside as you breathe.  Letting yourself float on an ocean of compassion — a limitless ocean that embraces all suffering.  Now letting go of the practice and allowing yourself to be exactly as you are in this moment.  Gently open your eyes.

By maintaining this sense of balance and self-care our resource of compassion for others and ourselves can be endless.

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